One of the most important pieces of gear from 2014.

UPDATE: You can now buy the Nebula 4000 Lite from an American company

This is my final review, see my older blog posts that include many other videos (9 of them) I have created about this gimbal.

I don’t want to spread misinformation, I am in over my head on this review, I really have no idea what I talking about since I am so new to 3-axis brush-less gimbals.

Why this over a Glidecam, simple I suck at the Glidecam. Some might like the Glidecam for it’s organic feel, I don’t care what feel it gives, I just want a steady level shot. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time!  I think this small gimbal is up there with the GH4 and a7S as important items of 2014. And just the pairing of these small mirrorless camera and this small gimbal it important in itself!

No competition that I know for this type of 3-axis pistol grip gimbalFilmpower owns this market until others like Freefly and DJI wake up and see the potential market for this. Big Balance has something but I don’t think it has ever shipped and is only 2-axis. Update: viewer Dennis Packard told me about this The J69 Gimbal which seems to use larger motors and is slightly lighter pistol grip gimbal like the Nebula (I know very little about it). Also another one is from Team Rebel Design Handheld Pro that looks very promising, I don’t know who sells it.

Sorry I can’t test all cameras like BMPCC, I only tried it with the a7S and GH4 with a variety of lenses.

Note: the video of me in my office was filmed on the Sony a7S to the Atomos Shogun in 4K using ProRes LT mode.

Review

Things I Like

  • Filmed my girls sledding, what a blast chasing them down this hill with this thing! Never had smooth footage like this before. Feels great to move the camera. Great for a corporate video I have coming up.
  • So small to travel with! it only weights 800gDJI Ronin weights 4,200g. Or it weights a lot less than my 2,100g monopod.
  • So light, I can hold it for as long as my Sony a7S battery will last me (26 minutes at -2°F). Lighter is always better, I will use it more because I can hold it longer and get more shots, instead of resting because my back is killing me.
  • So small you can hang it off to your side with an Black Rapid R strap. No shop owners asked what I was doing, try that with a DJI Ronin or a Movi!
  • The price is right, about $700. Some might say that is too much, considering the amount of tooling required for the extrude metal pieces, I think it is a bargain.
  • Sound so good for walking shots because it is so quiet!
  • I have so much good and usable footage I don’t know what to do with it all

Construction:

  • My brother-in-law who runs a machine shop looked at it and said they did a nice job on it
  • Handle gets cold (metal), need gloves.
  • Good it’s light but metal grip can be sharp
  • Small screw fell off of the gyro sensor – vibrations.

Battery:

  • Can remove can battery? Sort of, you can always solder a quick connect for the battery so you can switch another one in quickly.
  • Battery replaceable? Sort of.
  • 1:20 to charge from died. You can add alarm below 9 volts and turn of motors as Ken did in the setup.

Misc Notes

  • You can’t see it the footage is smooth by playing it back on the camera, or viewing it on a mobile phone you have to view it at the native resolution to see if you got smooth footage. You have to run a lot of tests, just by looking down at the tip of the lens to see if it is moving around while filming will also not do it for you.
  • Same settings work diff on each because a cable might be inverted during building.
  • In the kitchen Estes Park he really need to go from one subject and nowhere to go to the second subject. Move with a purpose.
  • I got lot of the moves wrong. But I got a lot of stuff that I really liked that I either did by accident or happen quite nicely
  • Website issues. Phone number is 123?
  • Take a while to understand which lenses to use.
  • 0 degrees F worked great
  • Use up cards faster.
  • I need to figure out what is “Motion cadence” for panning shots and how to reduce the jitter, perhaps a higher frame rate or a slower shutter angle.
  • I understand from one of my viewers that the yaw motor has 24 poles and not 14 like the way the unit comes from the factory. He said he verified it with Filmpower.

Why I am Not Buying One Just Yet (or things I didn’t like)

  • I am so close to buying this! I would probably buy it right now if I had not ever tried another one before.
  • Range of motion is limited: One problem is pointing it down at 45 deg angle and then the handle is not straight, it then because hard to move the camera without hitting the camera body. This might be my lack of experience.
  • Erik Naso had issues with his first unit (I sent him mine), also another person on Twitter said he was having fatal issues with it as well.
  • Can’t seem to inverted it all the time, sometimes it works, Jason Wingrove got it to work (inverted pan / yaw motor). Talked with filmpower via Skype but it was really hard to understand him because he was in a moving car.
  • One or two minute warm up on my before roll is level. Issue for run and gun, on your side and bring up to shoot. Others not having this issue. (I think this issue is solved when using the a7s and Ken Anaso settings.)
  • Not tool-less. Not going to be making a sled adjustment in field.
  • Do I wait for version Mark II to come out that solves these issues? Do I wait for other manufacturers to wake up and see the potential market for small gimbals? Should I try “Emm’s 3-axis minigimbal“? Buy something between now and NAB is a scary thought, because so many new items might come out in April.
  • Software is a little like rock science. You change one setting and it effects others in some calculus way, that is hard to get a feel for. I need a company to make really good instructions on how to balance and fine tune the software.
  • Case is really hard to close.
  • Check out Ken Asano site where he upgrades his boards to 32bit from 8bit, makes some cool battery modifications and watch him run with the thing, really smooth!  Note you will have to hit translate button in Chrome to read in English. Ken said it was easy to update to 32 to bit and said in the translation, “you will like this”. If it was that easy for him, I am sure future models of the Nebula will include a 32bit board. If you watch Ken’s videos he has used everything from Movi to Ronin, just check out Ken’s YouTube channel.
  • Yes something better will come along in this small form factor which works well for my shooting style, but if it does come NAB then I will buy one because I will be missing out on some great shots if I do not. Does that sound stupid, should I buy one now because I am thinking about all the great shots I will be missing between now and NAB.

a7S & GH4 Wide Angle Lenses – Notes for myself

Lenses I tried with the Nebula:

  1. Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 Lens GH4: expensive but sharp with nice contrast, but I didn’t like it for the Nebula because I would rather have a zoom that I can quickly re-balance then carrying another primes with me.
  2. Panasonic – LUMIX G 14mm f/2.5 ASPH II GH4: this lens is a little too soft at f2.8, but that doesn’t matter for me because if I am flying it I would want to shoot at f5.6 or higher, but again it is not a zoom and does not give me the options I want for my shooting style
  3. Olympus – M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 Lens GH4: I really like this lens on the Nebula, it is somewhat inexpensive when compared to other wide angle lenses, I like it because I can zoom and re-balance fast. I have not run a ton of tests on it, but it is sharp wide open and doesn’t appear to have a lot of distortion. However one m43 wide zoom that you might want to wait for is the new  Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Lens which should be amazing and expensive.
  4.  Voigtlander Color-Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL II N Aspherical Lens for Canon EF a7S: many others are shooting with APS-C lenses in crop mode, I thought I would try this 20mm which can be used in normal mode.  I would NOT recommend this lens because it is very soft at f3.5  and even soft at f8 in the corners, I have noticed a lot vignetting. My Tokina 16-28mm which is a zoom blows the doors off this prime, but the Tokina is too heavy to put on the Nebula.

I don’t want to shoot wide all the time, I want to have less distortion and zoom in a bit for a different feel but I don’t want to change lenses. The Panasonic 12mm prime is sharp and nice contrast but very limiting in run and gun. The 9-18mm gives me more options, not fast glass so indoor work might not be possible in low light. The 14mm prime is too soft at f2.8.

The Gh4 with 12/35mm lens is only slightly heavier than the a7s with the 20mm and adapter.

Panasonic 7-14mm (16.1 – 32.2,) vs Olympus 9-18mm (20.7 – 41.4)

  • Both f4 at widest
    Both don’t have IS
    Both soft at f22
    Olympus you can zoom without re-balancing.
    Olympus can take ND filter
    Olympus is cheaper
    Olympus is lighter and smaller
    Olympus does not have purple flaring issue that Panasonic has.
    Olympus GH4 combo is lighter than a7s with 20mm
    300g vs 155g
    Weather resistance? Panasonic not.
    Olympus focus might be slower, No depth of defocus, I did not test.

Ken Asano Nubula Profile Settings

PID Terms (mostly notes to myself for next time):

  • PID = Proportional-Integral-Derivative
  • P = power of disturbance response reacts to external disturbance (touch that motor and see how loose it is)
  • I = speed responsiveness getting back to neutral balanced condition. .01 is slow, .15 fast return, don’t go above .2 on the yaw is gets a lot of vibrations.
  • D = “dampening”  The “D” value reduces the reaction speed. This value helps to remove low-frequency oscillations.
  • Deadband degree = allows you to move the gimbal a little bit without it reacting.
  • Num Poles = number of poles in your motor, usually 14
  • RC Settings = this is if you have a joy stick (we don’t have one)
  • Power = how strong you want the motors to be. ” maximum voltage supplied to the motors (0 – 255, where 255 means full battery voltage). ” Don’t let the motors get hot, it will damage the magnets.
  • Gyro_X Red = roll
  • Gyro_Y Orange = Pitch/Tilt
  • Gyro_Z Lime = Yaw
  • PWM Frequency = low is more efficient with power, use high

When Settings are too High (What to look out for)

  • Want to use or start with as low power as possible so you can raise pid values.
  • If you go too high on P values you will get freq vibrations.   “If oscillations occur, raise the “D” parameter by 1 or 2 units, and then try to raise the “P” value again.”
  • If you go too high on D values you will get high freq vibrations.
  • If I value too high it will overshoot the target

Calibration Setup – Notes from a Helpful Tutorial

The follow setup is from a brushless gimbal setup guide by Creyc. His video taught me a lot so I wanted to take notes while watching it, the next gimbal I test I will not have to watch the entire 36 minute video.  After I followed this video I was able to get better results out of the Nebula.

This guide requires the SimpleBGC software that I have demo’ed in my other videos.

  1. Connect a USB cord from the gimbal to your computer and start the SimpleBGC software and connect.
  2. Turn off the motors
  3. Zero out all PID settings, check “skip gyro cal” box”
  4. Set all power levels, the yaw and roll will require more power usually Roll=50, Pitch 85, Yaw=100. The pitch motor has the least amount of mass attached to it, so lowest power required. The roll motor has the mass of the camera and the pitch motor so has a little more momentum which requires more power. The yaw has the entire gimbal so it needs the most power. Use the least amount of power required, this will reduce vibrations, but too little power because of large bumps while walking or wind will be seen.
  5. Turn motors on
  6. Press ‘Auto’ to find what is inverted with the wiring, and then make all poles 14 (for Nebula) because Auto is not accurate for poles.
  7. In advanced/motor outputs = roll:disabled, pitch:pitch out, yaw:disabled, so only pitch it working.
  8. The + to the right of power is what is added to the power when the gimbal ‘loses step’ or bumped this + power will be added on to the original value to bring it back to locked or center. Start with 50 power and 0 for the + column.
  9. Add 1 to the P value
  10. Holding the back of the sled rock the pitch up and down, if it drops down and stays down it “loses step”. If you are gentle and it follows with the movement, but if you turn it quick and it loses it’s place that is a sign you need a little more power, increase by 10 units. If it holds than you have the right power. He went from 50 to 65.
  11. Advanced: Disable pitch and Roll: roll out
  12. Set roll to 1,0,0 and power of 75, increased to 85 then to 90
  13. Advanced: turn roll to disabled and yaw to yaw out.
  14. Set yaw to 1,0,0 and power of 100, increase to 120
  15. Go back to just pitch: Advanced: disable roll pitch:pitch out, and yaw: disabled
  16. Power tuning is done, move on to PID tuning.
  17. Start with the D value first, if you start with P first you will get vibrations, so start with D, easy to start high and move down, start with 18, pick up the unit and watch for high freq vibrations, pull the unit back to it is tipping up and feel the vibrations. Bring the D value down until it stops. Finished at 9.
  18. Look to the lower right on the pitch circle and the number on the right is the error which is around 2.7, as you increase the P the error number drops. We want that error number to be low since that will show up in our video. If you go too high you will get vibrations.
  19. The I is still at 0, so no correction will happen. Set to .01 for now (slowest). If Pitch error is at a fraction of a degree. this is good.
  20. He felt vibrations so he decreased the D by 1 and increased the P 15 to 20. Keep those numbers active and move to roll next.
  21. Set Roll D 20 to start (go higher than you think),
  22. Real time data just select the Gyro X axis. If you see ringing with light taps it is too high. Bring down until you get one spike cycle on the real time graph, very light taps on the side of the camera.
  23. Now lightly tap on pitch front of lens and watch graph, adjust as needed
  24. Yaw – instead of tapping hold it like you are walking with it and watch the error number.
  25. I: .09 for Roll, .18 for pitch, .04 for yaw

Inverted Mode Instructions from FilmPower (Didn’t Work)

Invert mode in two way. First is direct turn from normal turn on, it turn front or back, but can not exceed 180°. Second is fill invert mode need set YAW motor invert mode in app. Camera in normal and grip on top then turn on.

Others Testing this Unit

16 comments

  • Thanks so much Dave. I’ve been waiting for this exact review. Especially using the Oly 9-18, which I own. Seems like a good setup, although I do plan on waiting until NAB to see what may come out. I’m really hoping one of the companies out there sees the potential and popularity in these and attempts to get us something that will last.

  • I was able to get inverted to work using both methods (entire thing upside down and gimbal upside down with came right side up and yaw reversed). The tick it to tune the power and PID for both modes. My first balance was too low power to run inverted. Going back and tweaking it allowed me to make it work and save a profile for normal and inverted.

  • I wonder has anyone tried Panasonic 12-32mm pancake zoom? With OIS it should help out with jitter, though with slow aperture (but sharp) it is useful for outdoor though

  • Today Sony announced a small light weight handy am type but 4k capable camera at the CES. It’s $1,100 and has a lens that floats on a gimbal. Since flying a camera is typically done with a wide angle lens which mitigates the benefits of a large sensor DSLR. Why would anyone spend the time and money on something like this when you can get an entire camera with excellent stabilization for not much more? Especially since Sony has announced 5 axis technology for their A7 which will surely migrate to the A7S. Don’t get me wrong I love gadgets but this seems like a fools errand. Better to spend your time on improving your skills in lighting, composition and story telling than investing time on something like this device.

  • Thank you for all your good work and nice review. I got my gimbal 4 days ago and it’s an absolute gem to work with. Your hints on tweaking the software was very helpful. I have used my LX1000 instead of the GH4. It’s so easy to balance. First time took 15 minutes. Now I do it in 1. With the Iphone I can control everything including focus and zoom (should I need it for some reason). Needs some more tweaking before I can run with it. Very happy with it and your help.

  • I tend to agree with you Dave. The added options for getting shots in the field is enormous and the footage you have is great. Sure, there’ll always be issues, but sometimes it’s about getting comfortable with the tools you have, knowing their limitations, and then using them to the best of your (and their) ability. There will always be something better later on…but this will have re-sale value!

  • How well would it work w/ the GH4 and speedbooster/Sigma 18-35 combo?
    Curious how much weight actually works on it…

  • Thanks for all the effort and time you put into this review. I just received mine, and you’ve already done much of the homework.

  • Could you reupload the profiles to dropbox? It out of date now. Thanks again Dave, that’s very kindness!

  • Lovely review. It does seem that this is spearheading a new and important sector for more portable gimbals.

    I’d love to see the company improve the product in a future revision (software and ergonomics wise) and perhaps get a working phone number to instill a bit more confidence in any potential buyers. No doubt i’d buy one to take with me when travelling once they refine the product. Beats lugging around a Glidecam 4000 HD!

    On a side note, your comments about NAB 2015 has made me question whether or not buying an A7s right now is the right time…

  • Great review Dave, goes though everything, learned a lot about the gimbal and it’s nuisances. This gimbal can really be a game changer in this field, I can’t wait to see what other companies will do. Here is an experimental video we did with the LX100, where we actually ran a lot with it: http://youtu.be/7mWNC89BCQg

    @Mats Hey I got the LX100 also and have been testing the unit. I haven’t messed with the software yet, so everything is stock
    What software settings are you using btw?

  • The last settings I used for LX100 were:
    Roll 21 0.03 13
    Pitch 25 0.05 12
    Yaw 30 0.04 25

    I’m not sure what I’m doing with the I setting though. LOL

  • Hi Dave
    the profiles in the links above are downloading as TXT files and I can’t seem to load them into the Nebula using the SimpleBGC software. They don’t appear in the profiles folder (even though that’a where I copied them to) but do appear where I click ‘any files’
    any ideas where I’m going wrong?

  • Hi Dave

    I’ve purchased the Nebula and tried your PID for the GH4+9-18mm : Great job, it’s very smooth, you saved me a lot of time 🙂 !

    The first day I played with it every thing was perfect, however today I’ve encountered the same “level problem” for the roll axis you were mentioning when you start the unit (“One or two minute warm up on my before roll is level. Issue for run and gun, on your side and bring up to shoot.”)
    Did you figured out where this problem comes from ?
    It’s quite strange..